FBMR - I Heart Huckabees
Film-Buff Movie Reviews

I HEART HUCKABEES (2004) ***1/2

Have you ever wondered why we're here, what does it all mean, how am I not myself? These questions and many more that fall under the existential umbrella are addressed in this film, but like in these real-life questions, none of them truly get answered. The fact is, no one REALLY knows the answers, and maybe we never will. But that doesn't mean it isn't interesting to watch quirky people wrestle with their own theories, and argue with other people about theirs, and run away from people who are trying to help. And this film is loaded with quirky characters.

Albert (Jason Schwartzman) finds a business card in a borrowed jacket for an existential detective. He has questions about a coincidence, having seen the same tall African man in three separate and unconnected circumstances. Vivian (Lily Tomlin), the detective, and Bernard (Dustin Hoffman), her colleague, suspect that there is more to Albert than just this one coincidence. They follow him everywhere and record everything that he does, including those around him. Albert is also troubled because Brad (Jude Law), a charming executive is trying to edge him out of his environmental charter. Vivian and Bernard are also working on another case involving firefighter Tommy (Mark Wahlberg), but he's been reading a book that contradicts Vivian and Bernard's beliefs that everything is connected and they are all simply atoms, and hence everything in the universe is the same. These two ideas are tossed back and forth amid a flurry of neurotic conversations, most of which are quite funny because of their quirkiness.

And oddly enough, this film reminded me of Star Wars. Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), the author of the book Tommy's reading, was once Vivian and Bernard's top student. She counters their philosophy with her ideas that nothing is relevant, nothing is connected, everything is pointless. It is the dark side of Vivian and Bernard's interconnectedness. Caterine is Anakin Skywalker turned Darth Vader, and Vivian and Bernard are her Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi. She was seduced by the dark side, and has seduced Tommy through her book, and when she comes to America and follows Albert's case as well, seduces him with her ideas as well. Yet one philosophy cannot exist without the other. The Ying needs the Yang. The joy needs the pain. The dark needs the light. And it is the balance, the Middle-way path, between the two extremes that seems to be the answer (for now, at least).

This review probably doesn't make too much sense to anyone who hasn't seen the film (it may not make sense to anyone who HAS seen the film either). It is truly a film that has to be seen if you're interested in beginning to maybe understand what I've written. This is not, however, a film for everyone. It's not for those who like mindless escapism, but for those who like quasi-intellectual banter. It's very talky, and I usually like quirky, talky films, and this one didn't disappoint.